Ok. It’s decided. We love Hoi An. The night time is beautiful; fairytale beautiful. We agree that it reminds us of Venice, Italy, but in an Asian, Miyazaki kind of way. Everything is close enough to walk, there’s plenty of shopping and eats, and it might smell better than anywhere we’ve been so far, which is saying a lot since it’s sits right on a pretty sedentary river. Aside from the daily flood of new tour buses filled with tacky people wearing souvenirs they picked up at the last stop, it truly is the most romantic city so far in Vietnam.
First up this morning is Ms. Vy’s Cooking School. Like any good cooking class, we start by going through the market. There was a 5 minute boat ride up the river that seemed unnecessary, but the market is incredibly picturesque.
This lady was a character. She refused money from the guide (each of them throwing bills back and forth) who wanted us to be able to smell and touch each of the special Vietnamese herbs, and she was there gruffly providing herbs for restaurateurs begging her for the ingredients to make the day’s dishes.
As you can see, the market carries everything from produce to herbs and spices to meats and fish. It’s a one stop shop for locals and local restaurants.
All of the ingredients required for 5 spice; garlic, shallots, turmeric, cardomon and star anise.
I’ve been making jokes about this lady all day. I know this is what happens when husbands misbehave here.
After the market, we came back to the restaurant to sample some of their food. Above is silk worm and onion. The worms weren’t bad (if you didn’t over think it), but I’m not much a fan of onions.
In Southern California we eat this dish with clams. Here they prepared it vegetarian.
This machine makes fresh rice noodles. There are settings to adjust the thickness to make all different types of noodles. The guide asked for volunteers, and Cat spoke up first. Apparently the rest of our small group of 6 was shy, so when 2 volunteers were allowed it ended up being Cat and I. We don’t say no to stuff like this. Give us an opportunity for a new experience and we take it! You can see Cat’s face of focus, while below, I’m laughing because I can’t keep up. The noodles were coming too fast!
Hand rolled dumplings.
Time to cook. First up, a cabbage soup with shrimp paste parcels.
Little shrimp balls wrapped in cabbage and tied with young onion. These were cooked in a premade broth along with cabbage leaves and carrots.
Bánh xèo. Any of you in Southern California may have already been to our house for Cat’s Bánh xèo. This batter came from a bag. Cat’s are better at home.
And finally, a young mango salad with turmeric BBQ chicken.
The class was setup so you could see what she was doing on the table in the mirror. The woman who took us through the markets was very cool. While the woman teaching the cooking portion was nice, she perpetuated all of these stereotypes about the meek, Asian woman. She kept saying “this is the soup that you make from scratch to impress your mother-in-law, otherwise she won’t approve of your marriage.” From then on, she kept saying, “Is your dish mother-in-law worthy?” She also talked about how important a woman’s place is in the kitchen. So other than being inundated with this “traditional” culture, the class was fun. The other people in our group were cool. A guy from the UK got brave and ate not only the silk worms, but also the fertilized duck egg. It was a morning well spent.
In the lantern city, you’ll find local craftsman hand building silk lanterns. Here is a man cutting the silk for the final stages of his lantern.
Just to curb one more old stereotype; dogs are friends here not food.
Just one corner of tour buses bringing in the onslaught of fresh tourists.
Our cooking class let out at 1:30pm. It was the hottest part of the day, and the streets will filling with tourists. So we decided to come back to the hotel for a little relaxing poolside. We grabbed 2 beers and a couple of loungers, and relaxed in and out of the pool.
Surprisingly we got hungry around 4pm, so we headed back out. It’s surprising because of the portion sizes this morning at the cooking class.
I found a woman who was clearly a tourist, adorned in Áo Dài and wearing a rice hat, that seemed safe to hand a camera to so we could get a picture on the banks of the river.
Even though we ate at Ms. Vy’s cooking school, her restaurant here in Hoi An is very famous. We tried to get the local dish Cau Lau at the market, but the booth that Cat had in mind was closed. So we stuck with what we knew would be good, and went to Morning Glory. It is one of the more expensive restaurants in Hoi An, and it is tough to get a seat unless you’re Cat and I and happen to walk in 20 minutes before the dinner rush, but the food was delicious, clean, and good quality. The herbs are fresh and well washed, the noodles made in hour, and the meat was tender and tasty. I order Bun Thit Nuong and Cat ordered the local dish, Cao Lau.
We did a little shopping and planned to go back out once the tourists went to bed, but once we got back to the room we got tired and lazy. Waking up this morning I’m realizing that was a mistake, and I wish we had gone back out to enjoy the beauty of the night in this city. I suppose that just means we’ll have to make a trip back in the future to once again feel the romance and serenity that Hoi An provides. The lanterns, boats, and floating candles make the most serene scene reflecting off of the river. I look forward to our next trip here and hope we can spend more time enjoying the river walk and incredible views.
Next stop – Huế!